LIA Protest/Lawsuit Dream Sequence

In June I learned some very powerful lessons in Memphis from watching the QAC in action.

Morgan, Cale, Suzie, Alex and the others strove to “speak truth to power” without hurting anyone, especially Zach and the other LIA/R victims/participants. They also made it clear from the beginning that their intentions were never to shut down LIA, rather to speak out against an injustice that was being done to young people.

I remember when a cameraman from ABC wanted footage of Zach leaving the LIA facility. He badgered the protesters who stood in the line as he attempted to find out what Zach’s family car looked like and repeatedly asked about Zach’s last name (this was before Joe Stark outed his family on CBN).

The QAC refused to budge. They did not in anyway wish to hurt or exploit Zach and the other participants.

I think in the same spirit, even though LIA’s lawsuit lists the locations of its two residential facilities, I suggest we leave those facilities alone. Hold no protests there, no obvious drivebys, etc.

I hear bloggers’ and commenters’ frustration about LIA/R still being open (I think it is frustration) and it will be echoed in lots of people as this story continues to break in blogs and the news. Some may wish to rise up and setup camp outside of the LIA residential facilities.

I’m sure most LIA survivors would agree with me that when we live in the LIA “ex-gay” cottage on Davidson Road (or any of the other homes scattered around Memphis) the last thing we wanted was any attention from the outside world. (Unless perhaps they were cute guys hanging around shirtless 🙂 We lived in shame and fear; a bunch of protesters would only confirm the slander we were hearing about the agressive and thoughtless gay community seeking to devour us.

This is now a legal battle. The state of TN presented its finding to its investigation. LIA countered with a lawsuit. The most important thing now is that the state of TN does not cave in light of the costs and the bother of a trial. For that reason, we need to continue to speak truth to power.

In fact, if I could have my dream come true, it would not be that LIA closes down. Rather it would be that John Smid and the other staff seriously question what they do, sit down and listen to the 400 people who have been through their doors since 1994 and see the sort of damage they do in their program (even if their intentions are good). Then in response to what they witness they seek a new way to reach out to same-gender loving and queer people–a way that would genuinely help the community and no longer harm individuals in it.

Perhaps we need to have a truth and reconciliation truth-sharing event where LIA staff get to hear from scores of participants about our experiences in and since LIA. Perhaps like Jeremy Marks and the former “ex-gay” Courage Organization, LIA will respond thoughtfully, lovingly and honestly and create a gay affirming organization that actually helps same-gender loving and other queer people.

Perhaps they shall know the truth and the truth will set them free.

Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.

This post has 10 Comments

  1. Bob Painter on October 2, 2005 at 12:29 pm Reply

    I awoke this morning with an urgency to rescind some comments I made last night. Most of all, I wished I could remove them from your blog site…thank you…

    I feel deep shame for my shortsightedness and for my outright selfish comments about “raiding” the houses.

    You are right. The clients are the real victims here. We need to show love…and no form of animosity that would slander us in their eyes.

    Your last several blogs have been powerful, Peterson–filled with the grace of Christ and basic human decency.

    Thanks for reminding us to take a higher path than vengence…

  2. Scott on October 2, 2005 at 1:13 pm Reply

    Great point Peterson, as a LIA survivor I do agree we should leave the participants alone. If it is still the case, they will follow blindly the explanations and excuses of John and the other staff. It would only cause more harm and confusion for them to see protesters outside their home.

    Keep up the great posts!

  3. Anonymous on October 2, 2005 at 4:22 pm Reply

    While I understand the need and value of leaving “clients” or victims of LIAr alone….I myself would have no problem whatsoever with taking SmidCo out by whatever (legal/non-violent) means necisary.

    I am always confused and bewildered when I hear people say that “Smid is genuinely caring, just misguided….” Of course I have to aquiesce to the people who actually KNOW him and have dealt with him….Having siad that, I dont care how pretty the snake is, its poison is still deadly.

    Smid is a psychopath, plain and simple. Not all psychopaths are running loose with chainsaws. And LIAr is a front/wedge for the radical religious right supremacists.

    Even if someone where to bring SmidCo around to thinking “straight” and realizing the damage he has and is doing, two or three more will pop up in his place.

    This problem is much bigger then Smid and LIAr.

    And this lawsuit against TN could have very disasterous ramifications.

  4. Christine on October 2, 2005 at 6:34 pm Reply

    I am remembering how I felt when I moved to Colorado to pursue change within an ex-gay ministry. I had almost enrolled in a live-in program instead. That program closed when the ex-lesbian who ran the ministry left with another woman.

    I remember being very upset by this at the time, and thinking how destroyed I would have been if I’d been a resident there. It’s not entirely the same thing, but it does help for me to remember back on how I felt when I first embarked on the ex-gay journey. I was so frightened and felt like I had to hide from everyone what I was doing. I was frightened and scared of anything disrupting my worldview at that time.

    Thanks for reminding who the real enemy is. It’s not these poor folks who have probably uprooted their lives to move to these houses.

    I am hoping that your dream comes true. 🙂

  5. Hopespringseternal on October 2, 2005 at 7:46 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    Thanks again for the kind words and for the wise thoughts. I find your comments always guided by the best interests of the real victims of LIA. Namely, the clients and their families.

    What I hope to come from this is a long-term examination of such facilities and perhaps a precedent set for further cases against such facilities. I don’t want them all shut down, but I do want them licensed if they plan to offer such services.

    Did you know that no one from QAC ever actually contacted the state authorities to complain about LIA. Funny that they mention us as the reason for this attention in their lawsuit.

  6. Anonymous on October 2, 2005 at 10:10 pm Reply

    Peterson, I see Jesus in a very real way more and more all the time in the words that you post. Thanks for making your relationship with Him a priority… it makes all the difference regarding whether God’s will is actually accomplished in the lives of all affiliated with LIA who may find their way back across your path in the aftermath of the ministry having to shut its doors… If that happens, I’m praying that the Spirit will give you an extra dose of wisdom so that you will have the right words to say to any who may need to hear them.

    Nick from GCN (aka Vizionary)

  7. JustSid on October 3, 2005 at 5:53 am Reply

    Hello,
    I Agree to set up protests outside these houses would be so very detrimental to these poor victims of LIA/R. I think what needs to be pressed is the abolishment of these places so that real growth and understanding can take place in these peoples lives. I personally feel what these places are doing is illegal. They practice bad medicine and effect peoples lives in a very detrimental way. I dont think protesting these places will work though. If anything is to be done then it needs to be done in a legal system that can outlaw these snake venom elixir shops. Sooner or later the government is going to have to pass laws to stop this bad psychological medicine practice. The medical oath states “Do no harm.” These sharlatons are harming people very much and this is where the battle needs fought.
    JustSid (GCN)

  8. Willie Hewes on October 3, 2005 at 9:46 am Reply

    Hi Peterson,

    Hope your trip home is safe and enjoyable.

    I agree entirely that protests outside LIA houses, however positive and nonviolent, will do little to convince LIA staff or clients that what they do is misguided.

    As an addition to some of the comments on here: I know very little about legal issues, and I’m entirely ignorant of the US legal system, so I cannot make any comment on the current battle going on.

    The ex-gay movement is a business, however, and no business can exist without customers to buy what they sell. However the situation with LIA plays out, it’s not going to be the end of the ex-gay movement.

    I think one of the most useful things we can do, as their opponents (not enemies) is educate people about what these ministries do and the results they achieve, not in an aggressive, “they’re all liars” kind of way, but in an “this is what happened, these are people’s stories, this is what ‘real’ psychiatrists have to say” kind of way. Kind of like Peterson does. *grin* *waves*

    Free Z was set up with that in mind, and if I can find the time, I will build on what’s there. In the meantime, I guess I’ll be watching the news on this lawsuit.

  9. Peterson Toscano on October 3, 2005 at 11:39 am Reply

    Yeah, I think commenters are getting at important points here. This is not about religious persecution. It is about bad medicine, bad business, harmful practices. I imagine there will always be some sort of “ex-gay” ministry in the world, problably as long as homophobia exists.

    The issue here is that LIA positioned itself as a therapeutic treatment center and is responsible to function under certain state-sanctioned guidelines. I

    t’s like a read somewhere (I’ve been on lots of blogs, so I can’t remember where) and someone compared it running a Christian restaurant (let’s call it “The Salt Shaker”). One can have a “Christian” restaurant (presumably with an all-you-can-eat bread and wine buffet) but still would be subject to the health department’s rules. If it is not up to code, it gets fined or shut down. This is not about religious persecution. It is about the welfare of the citizens of a particular state.

  10. Regan on February 11, 2006 at 6:07 pm Reply

    I listened to my light skinned aunts who, during the Jim Crow era, would periodically pass for white.
    Sometimes just to buy clothes, or go into a finer restaurant or decent bathroom.
    Once in a while, a black worker would suspect they might be black.
    Sometimes outing lightskinned blacks carried horrendous consquences for them.
    I see a different form of consequences to gay youth that can be even worse.
    Abandonment to ‘reprogrammers’. An active destruction to gay identity and psyche.

    I’ve had the benefit of also knowing Holocaust survivors or Jews from Soviet Russia, who know well what the active destruction to their Jewish identity did to them as individuals.

    There is no justification for LIA, their aim is the destruction of gay identity.
    And that, whether it’s mental, physical, or spiritual identity, is no man’s domain to change.

    It’s never right or caring to EVER suggest that a human being abdicate their identity.
    It’s ALWAYS offensive.

    And the John Smids of the world are just going to have to suck up and learn that!

    And trust me, this big mouthed black woman WILL tell them JUST that.

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